Milwaukee, WI asked in Appeals / Appellate Law, Criminal Law and Legal Malpractice for Michigan

Q: My friend pled not guilty to murder at bench jury. Sentenced guilty for life w/ little evidence & no suspects. Appeal?

Accused of murder, 1st degree by shooting of his girlfriend's mother. He had a key to the house as he was with his girlfriend for 4+ years. Bullets found at scene didn't match gun found on him. No blood found on him nor his clothing. A jacket he owns found to have similar fibers as found on victim. His blood found at house yet no marks found on him nor his blood on victim. Her purse found close to a place he stopped at during night of murder. He had a bench jury, pled not guilty, and was sentenced to life. Victim had an ex husband who she got along with and a boyfriend. Many other suspects who were neglected to be put in question.

1 Lawyer Answer
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: To appeal or not depends on too many factors to answer convincingly in this forum. I'll address some inconsistencies in your question that hopefully will let you better understand the state of your loved one's case.

I am unsure whether your friend plead guilty or was found guilty at trial. Your question indicates a "bench jury". A trial by judge alone is called a bench trial; a trial with a jury determining guilt or innocence is called a jury trial. At any rate, it appears that some entity - whether a judge or a jury - determined that your friend was guilty of murder.

The difficulty in appealing trials is that evidence was presented, and the trier of fact (either the judge or the jury, depending on type of trial) made determinations as to what it believed based on that evidence. In turn, your friend's attorney had an opportunity to present other facts or theories, which the judge or jury was free to accept as true or not.

If your friend had a trial, he has the right to appeal. Given that he is serving a life sentence, it's certainly worth having an appellant attorney take a look at the case to see what can be done.

If he plead guilty at some stage - it is somewhat common for people charged with 1st degree murder to plead guilty to 2nd degree murder to be parole eligible - his appellate options are far more limited as by entering a guilty plea, he admitted out of his own mouth the facts necessary to sustain the conviction. In that scenario, it wouldn't really matter if the police looked for other suspects or what the investigation found or didn't find.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.